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July 17, 2015

Hey Here's a Crazy Idea, Let's Try Actual Honest Discussion and See What Happens

I objected to the Huffington Post's Decidery Decision to put Trump on in the Entertainment section for the same reason I object to the media's embargo of the Planned Parenthood story:

It is an attempt to win an argument without having an argument, an attempt to win what should be a contest of competing ideas by use of processes that have nothing to do with the intellect.

Human beings are pack mammals. There are various ways to get a human being to claim agreement with your way of thinking. Excluding the more physical ways, such as simply beating that human being with the thigh-bone of an auroch until he rolls into the fetal position of surrender, here are the two main socio-intellectual ways to convince someone of something:

1. You can have an honest discussion with him, conducted on an intellectual, not emotional, not social, plane, in which you both offer your ideas and your best possible arguments for them. While such discussions rarely change minds, when they do change minds, they change them honestly and purely, by reason, by force of logic, by persuasiveness.

2. You can run a series of social-hierarchy, social-shaming political games against the person you wish to convince; you can ostracize him, setting him away from the group, alone and afraid, to be ritually mocked by the group until his humiliation and desire to end the torment of social pain compels him to confess a (coerced) agreement with you.

I'm not going to lie to anyone; #2 is more frequently effective than #1, if all you care about is pure outcome, and furthermore, #2 is very easy compared to #1, as #2 only requires that you have some allies you can convince to run the social shaming game on a target -- the butt, the scapegoat-- and it's easy to convince people to do that, because people like being cruel.

#2 is by far the most common form of political tactic, and it is indeed political -- just like any political campaign, it consists of designating a Hero (or Hero Position) and a Villain (anyone holding the Villain Position), and getting the most people to hoot and bray and jeer and spit at the other side.

You know when you've won when you get the most people on your side, or at least the most people willing to spit the most, and cow the other side into social submission.

I am annoyed by the media's Shaming and Legitimacy-Conferring or Denying in general, but I am especially disappointed by conservatives who actively celebrate instances of these things when they are useful, in the exceedingly short-term, to settle some political fight they apparently think is the Most Important Thing in the History of Ever.

And this crap with the Huffington Post is this sort of political/social gamesmaship; it is both the Bandwagon Effect and counting up your number of supporters to prove you're right (was Einstein right when he proved General Relativity, or was he right only when the Physics Cool Kids said he was?), and it is an Appeal to Authority which, again, has nothing to do with the actual truth or falsity of the claim under consideration, but is a purely emotional resort to asserting a Socio-Intellectual Hierarchy to get people of allegedly lesser rank to accept that they have been commanded by a superior member of the pack.

Oh, and by the way, as to this particular Appeal to Authority...? The Huffington Post's politics editorial staff...?

My tongue is so firmly pressed against my cheek that I can only mumble the words: "That's what I call 'a Big Get,' man. Congratulations on that. Huge if true."

I'm not angel, and I'm no idealist: I understand that political games will occasionally be deployed in politics.

However, for my part, I would say the following:

1. I am not a stupid man. The "political/social shame circle" style of "argument' increasingly strikes me as not just stupid but viciously and basely so, and so offends my intellect, which in turn offends my ego. I have an ego, and spending so much time in this insipid mode of "persuasion," favored by animals of the field and 8-year-old children establishing dominance hierarchies on the playground, offends me on an egotistical level.

I am better than this, and I am egotistical enough to declare that.

2. I am a man, not a child, and, quite frankly, this all seems extremely juvenile and catty to me -- it's sub-tweener-ish, it's puerile, it's Mean Girlish.

Again, ego intervenes: As a man, I prefer to speak to people as a man, and not as a little boy or girl running Mean Girl games on the other kids.

3. I do not believe this tactic is as effective as it appears, because, while not everyone is a great thinker, people are pretty good at detecting when they are being treated dishonestly. Even if they can't name the precise logical fallacies that are being run on them, they recognize them as illogical and therefore dishonest, and also recognize, then, the intended social slight: You are beneath me; you are stupid; this stupid lie I'm telling may appeal to you, because you are so stupid.

The result of these games is, out of every ten runs, two people cowed into submission, three unimpressed, and five now bitter emotional enemies because you ran an exceedingly stupid game on them and thus treated them with palpable contempt.

4. People are also good at sniffing out another form of dishonesty: dishonestly-hidden agendas. These games are frequently dishonest precisely because there are issues the games-runner does not want to discuss at all, and wants to elide over, or even squelch, through his anti-intellectual, social-smothering gamesmaship.

For example, Planned Parenthood, if they were being honest, would probably say something like this about their videos:

"Yes, babies' bodies are torn apart in abortions. What were you morons expecting? Most of you want us to supply the conscience-easing, intellectual slop that these are just "clumps of cells," and so we provide you morons with this obviously-dishonest claim. But if you idiots bothered to think about it, you'd realize that of course abortions result in torn apart bodies.

"But you don't like thinking. You prefer someone else do your thinking for you, and then tell you what you think. Well, we've done that, and now you dare question the manner in which we've done that?

"The babies were ripped apart, obviously, and we spared you this truth, which you did not wish to confront; and now that we have dead baby organs on our hands, which are, sorry to discomfort you non-thinking two-legged animals again, valuable to biotech corporations, what should we do? Just burn them? Well, America is about making a buck, and we're not making our salaries based on giving out free cancer screening, idiots.

"All of this would have been obvious to you if you just bothered to think about it, but you didn't want to, so we protected you from ugly reality.

"You should be thanking us for trying to insulate you from the realities of the world, not questioning us as to why, in this instance, we failed to fully do so."

So that's their honest answer. But they can't say that, because if they did, people might do some of that thinking that people typically don't like doing. People hate thinking, but they may try it when all other options have been closed to them.

So, in order to keep people from knowing the facts and, worse yet, actively thinking about those facts, they Uproar the topic: The video was "heavily edited." It is "misleading." Those people who put that video out are just crazy anti-abortion crusaders who are just crazy about abortion; you don't want to be a crazy person like those crazy people, do you?

Well do you?

Oh, Lena, you have to be pretty to run Alpha Girl dominance games!

Sorry, but for my money, much of this Trump Uproar is of a similar sort: There is a truth that many do not wish to discuss, which is this:

The Establishment is completely in favor of amnesty, but they lie about it because the base isn't.

Furthermore, many people who argue on behalf of the Establishment are themselves pro-amnesty, but will not admit that, because 1, they fear it will diminish their credibility, and 2, they fear having Social Shaming games run on themselves (you dirty RINO Amnestia!).

I can understand that last part -- and the anti-establishment people sure run their own social-mobbing games with aplomb -- but truth is truth and lies are lies, and this bullshit where people who are plainly pro-amnesty won't admit they are is doing nothing but retarding the entire issue.

Look fellas: I know that when people argue with me, they are not motivated by achieving my goals for me. They are motivated primarily by achieving their own goals, not mine, so this eternal claim that "We're just trying to help you do Smart Politics to get what you want" is seen as an obvious deception, and, of course, a contemptuous one, for who would believe that?

I'm not saying the Establishment people are selfish here: of course they seek their own political preferences.

I'm saying just that they are absurdly dishonest in refusing to admit they are seeking their own political preferences, in constantly claiming "Oh no guys we're just acting as unbidden freelance political consultants trying to help you get what you most want."

No you're not. This is dishonest, and everyone understands -- implicitly -- that people are primarily interested in their own agendas, not other people's.

So please, stop telling silly lies that not only reveal you as dishonest, but as holding your rivals in intellectual and social contempt.

I mean, a good lie would be one thing. A good, solidly-built, German-engineered lie; well that kind of lie I could stand back and admire and say, "Wow, now there is a pretty lie with graceful, panther-like lines."

But this childish "I'm just trying to help you not be so dumb" shit?

C'mon. That's contemptuous.

So here's my plea:

Can we just be honest and state our actual preferences, and why we prefer these things, and deal with each other honestly, and with enough respect to admit "I disagree with you on this," instead of perpetually running these primitive, stupid, catty, girlish, undignified, nasty, painful, cruel social-management political campaigns against one another?

The other day I explained why I was pro-choice on the blog. It was not a popular position. Undoubtedly, I lost some credibility with some.

But so what? If I had credibility on this issue only because people didn't know my actual position, then that credibility was falsely had in the first place and I should never have had it at all.

So I lost credibility among pro-life people. Good! That is honest - I honestly should not have had much credibility with them on this issue.

To lose what should have never been mine is hardly a loss.

The conservative movement has some serious disagreements. They cannot all be papered over, as we usually prefer.

The GOP is like an insecure middle class family -- always hiding the very serious issues within in it in order to present a false front of Middle Class Tranquility and Respectability to the outside world.

The schisms in the GOP are now too great for that Put On a Happy Face and Pretend Our Troubles Away act.

There are people who really want to have these issues out, to bring them to the surface, so that we can each be heard, and we can have a real resolution on them.

(Note when I say a "real resolution" I don't mean full agreement, which is impossible; at this point, I must say that a "real resolution" is of course nothing more than a political consensus formed by non-intellectual bean counting. But on the way to this admittedly non-intellectual political settlement, can we at least have an occasional non-political intellectual engagement on the issue?)

But the people who keep attempting to squelch actual problems to Put On a Happy Face aren't advancing a cause -- they are simply delaying the debate which must ultimately be had.

You're just postponing this reckoning until closer to the general election-- when there will not be time for people to get over it and get aligned with the political settlement.

I don't believe in much-- apart from cynicism, I believe in little -- but I do have one sappy sounding, idealistic bit of nonsense I believe in very passionately:

I believe that honesty is, despite its surface defects and all the horrors it appears it might cause, actually the best policy in 95% of situations, no matter what the short-term advantages Lies might seem to have, or Lies' superficial attractiveness.

We have disagreements. I would say we have fairly intense disagreements (though, in historical terms, they're merely "serious," Not cataclysmic).

Let us, in these few months before the full primary season, actually discuss these things honestly and openly, and put off the stupid animal social engineering horseshit as long as we possibly can.

How about we all just say what we really believe, and see how that works for a change?

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posted by Ace at 06:09 PM

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